Thanksgiving Update: New Screening, New Rules, and More...

Hello Lyonsgate Families, and Happy Thanksgiving.

We have a big update for you today with lots of new information about safety, screening, photo day, parent education, and flu shots.

As we head into this long weekend we want to thank you all for your commitment to keeping all of the Lyonsgate students, staff, and all of your and our families safe and healthy. Many of us have been affected by exclusions, testing backlogs, and other disruptions in the first month of school. It is difficult but necessary, especially as case numbers continue to climb.

Ontario saw the highest-yet single day number of new cases today -- 939.

Hamilton's medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, noted this week that:

"the spread is occurring among people who aren't following public health guidance. 'When we go through and talk to cases we do find that's the case and people who are infected,' Richardson explained. 'They've not used masks, they've not used physical distancing when they should.'"

We beg of you all to please follow the heightened restrictions in place throughout Ontario this long weekend. Thanksgiving will be different this year and your plans may have to change. It is only by individual commitment to doing the right things that we can produce the highest degree of safety for everyone.

A number of new restrictions have come into place over the last week or so:

  • Ontario residents are being asked to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner at home with members of their immediate household only.
  • Announced today, Friday, Oct. 9, residents of Ontario are being asked to stay home except for essential trips such as work, school, grocery shopping, etc.
  • Also announced today, travel to other regions of the province is to be restricted to essential purposes only.
  • Social circles/bubbles are currently on hold. Ontario residents are not to continue close contacts with their circle/bubble and are to restrict close contact to members of their immediate household only. From the province: "Due to the recent increase in cases and to ensure continued health and safety, you should limit close contact to people living in your household and maintain 2 metres physical distance from everyone else. If you live alone, you can consider having close contact with one other household."
  • Please continue to wear a mask when indoors in public places, or anywhere you cannot maintain a physical distance of two (2) metres, including outdoor spaces where physical distance cannot be maintained.
  • Wash your hands regularly and properly, and help children to wash hands properly. Soap and water is still the best hand hygiene.

New Screening Form and Process

Lyonsgate has chosen to begin using the new provincial screening tool for schools and child care centres. You will find the link to the new screening form on the Home page at It has replaced the separate forms for each campus. Both Primary and Elementary students, and staff, will use the same screening form. There are some new procedures that accompany the new form:

  • When you access the screening form click the "Start school screening" button.
  • Next, select that you are taking the screening as a "Parent/guardian on behalf of a student/child."
  • When you arrive at Lyonsgate with your child you will be asked to verbally confirm that you completed the screening process and passed, allowing your child to attend school that day. (Elementary parents, if your child(ren) walk to school by themselves, please send a confirmation email to before your children arrive).
  • Your confirmation responses will be recorded and made available to Hamilton Public Health Services as needed and/or required.
  • You must complete the screening process every day before your children can attend school; as always, the screening form must be completed after 5:00 a.m. each morning.

The new screening process does not screen for or require exclusion of asymptomatic siblings or other household members. Asymptomatic siblings may continue to attend school and will be monitored for symptoms. Please make safe, responsible decisions to protect the health and safety of the community.

To help you better understand the process if children are symptomatic, Hamilton Public Health has created two decision-making flow charts that explain what to do depending on the circumstances. Click below to view and download the decision-making charts:

* Symptomatic Child at Home Decision Guide

* Symptomatic Child at School or Child Care Decision Guide

Primary Photo Day

Photo day for Casa and Toddler students at the Primary campus will take place on Tuesday, October 20.

Primary Parent Education

Parent Education events for Casa and Toddler students are coming up:

  • Casa: Thursday, October 22, at 5:00 p.m.  Topic: Montessori 101 and Introduction to At Home Learning
  • Toddler: Friday, October 23 (PD Day), at 1:00 p.m.  Topic: Independence

Zoom Invitations will be sent by your child's Montessori guide.

Elementary Staggered Start and Pick-up Periods

To try and reduce congestion on the sidewalk and maintain appropriate physical distancing at pick-up we have instituted new pick-up periods that will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 13. Please click here to view the periods.

Please arrive only during your pick-up period and remember to exit as soon as possible, after checking out with Jason on the front porch. Each group of students will be dismissed when the previous group has cleared.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation as we try to create the safest environment for your children and families.

Flu Shots

Today, we received a request from Hamilton Public Health to participate in their flu shot campaign. Please click here to view the letter from Public Health.

From Public Health:

"It’s more important than ever to reduce the spread of flu and the 2020-2021 influenza season will present unique challenges given the on-going presence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flu season often puts an extra burden on the healthcare system, so it is important that people do what they can to reduce their chances of getting the flu. Hospitals and healthcare facilities could become overwhelmed if they need to treat both flu and COVID-19 patients.

The flu shot is our best defense against the flu. This year we are hoping to provide the flu shot to as many people in our community as possible through a variety of locations and models designed to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19.
For more information about flu and flu shots please visit:

Thank you everyone. Have a safe but great Thanksgiving long weekend and we'll see you on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Screening and Testing Update

Hello Lyonsgate Families,

There have been some changes to the screening and testing requirements. [Please Note: the changes reflected here are from the provincial government; Hamilton Public Health will also be providing guidance, which may result in further changes. We'll let you know].

These changes make things less arduous overall, but do make things a little more complicated. We've tried to break it down clearly below.

Screening Changes

There are now two categories of symptoms on the screening form: symptoms that may require testing and symptoms that may not require testing. Please be sure to read the new screening forms very carefully.

Other changes:

  • Pink eye (conjunctivitus) and abdominal pain have been removed as symptoms.
  • Some symptoms have been combined (for eg. fever and chills, and nausea, vomiting, diarrhea).
  • The question about contact with anyone with a respiratory illness has been removed and replaced with a question about directed isolation.

Testing and Exclusion Changes

If any of the symptoms in the group of symptoms that may require testing are present, things stay the same as what we are used to: contact Hamilton Public Health and your health care provider and follow their direction for testing referral.

From the group of symptoms that may not require testing:

  • If you answer "Yes" to ONLY ONE of these symptoms, the child is required to be excluded from school for 24 hours. If the symptom persists or worsens the child must remain absent from school and you are asked to contact your child’s health care provider for further advice or assessment, including if your child needs a COVID-19 test or other treatment. Siblings should also remain home for at least 24 hours and be monitored for symptom development. The child may return to school when the symptom is improving and they feel well enough to do so. A COVID-19 test is not required.
  • If you answer "Yes" to TWO OR MORE of these symptoms contact Hamilton Public Health and your health care provider and follow their direction for testing referral.

We will update the "Lyonsgate COVID-19 Exclusion of Sick Children/Staff Policy and Procedures" and the "Lyonsgate COVID19 Supplemental Parent Handbook" once we receive the final direction from Hamilton Public Health. Until then, please refer to this communication and the details on the screening forms. An FAQ from the Ontario Ministry of Health is included below.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. My child has woken up not feeling well, what do I do?

If you notice that your child has new or worsening symptoms, what you do depends on the symptom and how usual they are for your child. If your child has new or worsening:

• Fever/chills
• Cough
• Shortness of breath
• Decreased or loss of smell or taste

Your child should isolate immediately and you should contact your child’s health provider for further advice or assessment. The health care provider can help you determine whether the symptoms are related to another non-COVID-19 condition, or if they should get tested for COVID-19.

If your child has ONE new or worsening symptom (that is not related to a known cause or condition) that include:

• Sore throat
• Stuffy nose/runny nose
• Headache
• Nausea/vomiting/diarrhea
• Fatigue/lethargy/muscle aches/malaise

Your child should stay home for 24 hours to be monitored to see whether the symptoms get better or worse. If they start to feel better and symptoms are improving, they can return to school/child care when well enough to do so and no COVID-19 testing is needed. If the symptoms get worse, you should contact their health care provider for further advice or assessment. The health care provider can help you determine whether the symptoms are related to another non-COVID-19 condition, or if they should get tested for COVID-19.

If your child has TWO or MORE new or worsening symptoms (that are not related to a known cause or condition) that include:

• Sore throat
• Stuffy nose/runny nose
• Headache
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Fatigue/lethargy/muscle aches or malaise

Your child should isolate immediately and you should contact your child’s health provider for further advice or assessment. The health care provider can help you determine whether the symptoms are related to another non-COVID-19 condition, or if they should get tested for COVID-19.

2. My child has a runny nose, what should I do?

If your child’s only symptom is a runny nose, you should keep your child home and monitor their symptoms as you would in any other year. When they feel better, they are ready to go back to school/child care and no COVID-19 testing is needed. If they get worse or develop other symptoms, you should contact their health care provider for more advice. Mild symptoms known to persist in young children (e.g., runny nose) may be ongoing at time of return to school/child care if other symptoms have been resolved.

3. Who in my family needs to be tested along with my child?

If your child has been identified as needing a test and everyone else in the family is well, no testing of other family members is needed. If your child tests positive for COVID-19, the
local public health unit will contact you/your child and make a plan for additional testing of all close contacts.

4. Do I need a note from a doctor before my child goes back to school/child care or a copy of a negative test result?

No, you do not need a note from your doctor or proof of a negative test before your child returns to school/ childcare.

5. I need more information to feel confident in my assessment, what do I do?

If you need additional information about COVID-19 or have a question specific to your child and their health, please contact your health care provider.

Lyonsgate Update Sept. 25, 2020

Hello Lyonsgate Families,

We have a brief update, a reminder, a request, and a virtual event for you this week.

There have been some questions about the exclusion of siblings when a student is excluded due to being symptomatic. The provincial Ministry of Education released a screening tool last week that is different from the screening forms we use at Lyonsgate; it does not question or exclude asymptomatic siblings. Lyonsgate will not be using this screening tool.

Having asymptomatic siblings of symptomatic students present in the cohorts increases the risk of transmission. As such, Lyonsgate will continue to use the same screening form and exclusion protocol at both the Primary and Elementary campuses.

We know you will understand and appreciate that this heightened degree of safety is the best course of action to maintain a safe school environment for all of your children and families.

New COVID Test Booking Website

A new website you can use to book COVID tests came online on Thursday, Sept. 24. Visit to book a test ( also redirects to the same website)

Remember, you can also call Public Health at 905-974-9848 option 2 for testing referral.

As you know, Public Health and the testing centres are overwhelmed. Wait times for tests are increasing, so patience is required. Public Health is asking that people please book an appointment and do not go to testing centres without an appointment.

No Asymptomatic Testing

Another change this week is that children (and everyone else in Ontario) that do not have symptoms are not eligible to have a COVID test. This change is to reduce the demand on the testing centres and labs. Only students with symptoms, and other symptomatic family members, can book a test. Asymptomatic siblings should be kept home and monitored for symptoms and can return once negative test results and 24 hours symptom free are achieved for the symptomatic child.

Reminder: PD Day Monday, Sept. 28

There is no school at either Lyonsgate campus this coming Monday, September 28. This is the second PD day early in the year, as is the case every year, as necessitated by Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Primary campus is not available on those days, and this year these early PD days are very beneficial to helping us refine how this strange new approach to school is working. The next school closure days coming up are Monday, Oct. 12, for Thanksgiving, and another PD day on Oct. 23. Remember to check your Lyonsgate calendar regularly (you can find it under the "Parents" tab at

Request: Reusable Bags for Primary Please

We are asking parents of Primary students (Casa and Toddler) to please provide a reusable/washable bag to be used for children's soiled clothing. We are trying to minimize the use of plastic bags.

Thank you.

Telling Tales

The annual Telling Tales Festival is very popular with Lyonsgate families, and this year it is moving online:

Telling Tales Festival is a free children’s literature festival that takes place annually in Hamilton.  This year marks the 12th annual event and for the first time Telling Tales will be hosting a Virtual Festival, premiering on Facebook and YouTube.  The event began on September 20th and runs through to December 3rd, 2020.  The theme this year is “Stories Connect Us” and the line-up features over 80 presenters and 13 themed episodes with quality children’s programming from award-winning Canadian authors, illustrators, storytellers, and musicians.  The programming is suitable for children of all ages.
For more information and to view the festival schedule, please visit

Thank you everyone. Please follow all public health guidelines while enjoying the summery days this weekend so that we can continue to have a safe and healthy school year.

Back to School: Clarifications and Resources

Hello Lyonsgate Families,

Next week we all head back to school. We don't have any new information for you today, but we do have clarification on some policy questions, resources for you to use this school year, and a very important reminder.

First the very important reminder.

Each communication we have sent to you over the summer has included the following:

Please continue to follow all public health guidelines for the health and safety of your family, and the wider community, so that we can all participate in a full and safe 2020.2021 school year. Keep to your social circles/bubbles. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Maintain physical distance. Keeping community transmission rates low is essential.

We have also had requests from your fellow Lyonsgate parents this week for us to beg of you all, as we send our children back to school and into shared spaces, to please do what you know is the best and the right thing to do for everyone's health and safety. We have been asked to remind everyone and fully support the call to please follow all of the required practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Be diligent about sticking to your 10-person social circles/bubbles.
  • Limit unnecessary exposure by staying out of public spaces as much as possible (limiting grocery shopping to 1 trip per week, for example).
  • If you are in any inside space -- shopping, work, etc. -- wear a mask and wear it properly.
  • Maintain physical distance of two (2) metres wherever possible.
  • Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer after contact with any possible contaminant.

Global pandemic viruses are definitely inconvenient and annoying. By doing the right and required things we can get through it more quickly.

As children return to school we must all commit to being more diligent to prevent community transmission rates from increasing.

We all need to do our individual parts to protect the health and safety of all of your children and your families.


A few points requiring clarification came out of yesterday's Casa orientation sessions, and we've had some emailed questions.

Our Casa staff want you to know that they wish the orientation sessions had gone better. They were trying to find a balance between being firm, upfront, and clear, and being calm, compassionate, and casual so as to not create undue anxiety. They feel the scales tipped too far to the latter side and they felt they may have come off as too "wishy-washy." As you know, some of the staff is new this year and were meeting you for the first time, online, and trying to create a reassuring bond while keeping in mind a lot of new information that we have all had to learn very quickly. Please accept their apologies and know that we had a thorough debrief afterwards to clarify any points of policy and protocol confusion.

Here is clarification on some points that have been raised:

  • Cohorts will only close if there is a confirmed positive COVID-19 test/case.
  • Cohorts will NOT close in cases when children are excluded for symptoms or failed screening.
  • Only the symptomatic child is required to be excluded, not the rest of the cohort.
  • The 14-day exclusion period is only required if you choose to NOT undergo a COVID-19 test for your child. In that case, your child can return within the 14-day period if you have a doctor's note verifying that the symptoms are not COVID-19 related. (There is also a minimum 14-day exclusion period in cases of a positive test, but at that point Public Health is in charge and their direction must be followed).
  • Masks: Elementary students (and Casa/Toddler students whose parents wish them to wear one) should have three (3) masks for use each day: one each for the morning and afternoon, and a spare. Clean masks should be kept in a paper bag and each child should also have a sealable plastic bag for used masks.
  • No names of symptomatic children or positive/confirmed COVID-19 cases will ever be published or shared by Lyonsgate Montessori School. Obviously, we are required to inform you if there are confirmed cases in the school community, but no personal information will be shared.
  • Once inside the school buildings, members of the cohorts, both students and staff, will not interact with each other.
  • Daily online screening forms must be completed after 5:00 A.M. each day and before you arrive at the school to drop off your children.
  • Casa Arrival Periods: there is no assigned group 1 or 2. The first 15 minutes of each half-hour arrival period are reserved for children of staff working in those cohorts and for children of families who fall under the category of "Eligible Worker." If you do not fall under one of those categories, please arrive for screening during the second 15-minute period. If you are late and miss your arrival period, please wait until the screening area is clear.

Resources for You

Please visit

Just below the scrolling images you will find a section on the Home page called "COVID-19 Information." That section contains links to:

  • The daily screening forms (there are separate forms for the Primary (Toddler and Casa) and Elementary campuses, and for staff.
  • The "Lyonsgate COVID-19 Advisory Page." This is where any confirmed case information will be posted (you will also be notified via email), but let's hope we never have to use that page.
  • The "COVID-19 Supplemental Parent Handbook." This contains all of the information you need related to COVID-19 at Lyonsgate. (Please wait for it to load).
  • You can also find the Advisory page and Supplemental handbook under the "Parents" tab.

Your Contact Info

There has been some movement in the cohorts as we get closer to the start of school, and we know that some of you may have new or different contact information than what was entered on registration forms. We will be working to get contact lists updated next week. Please email if you have any updated contact information.


Lyonsgate Staffing, Staggered Start, and Info Update

[This is the body of the August 28 “Lyonsgate Staffing, Staggered Start, and Info Update” email sent to all Lyonsgate families]

Hello Lyonsgate Families,

Today we have the 2020.2021 school year new staff update for you, all of the required COVID-19 policy documents, staggered start dates, and a few other notes.

New Staff

This week we want to tell you about the new, amazing staff that will be guiding and caring for your children, but before we do we want to say a warm, heartfelt goodbye to those that have left: Miss Dee, Mlle Nordaam, Miss Moffatt , Mlle Cottone, and Miss Boyle. We were blessed to have those wonderful women with us as long as we did. Some we knew were leaving at the end of the last school year, and the pandemic has definitely had an effect on everyone, giving us the time, and need, to rethink our lives and paths, and in some cases has opened up new opportunities. We wish all these ladies nothing but the best for their future endeavors!

We have been updating the staff on the individual classroom "Cohort and Schedule" documents that were shared with you on August 14. You can view the updated staff and cohort lists here:

[Please see you email for cohort lists]


Please welcome and get to know your new Lyonsgate staff members

Toddler Montessori Guide:

Ms Janelle Duhig

Ms Duhig is the Toddler Montessori Guide at Lyonsgate and was always told to one day work with children. As an adolescent, she was a camp counsellor and babysitter. Prior to becoming a Montessori teacher, she was a travel agent as well as an event planner, but her love for working with children always prevailed. After reading about the Montessori philosophy she knew that this was the career path for her.
Ms Duhig graduated from the Toronto Montessori Institute in 2013 and has had the privilege of teaching children from 15 months to 6 years of age.
Ms Duhig is also a certified prenatal yoga instructor and yoga birth coach, and enjoys going on walks, reading, and painting.

Toddler French Assistant:

Mme Allie Craigie

Mme Craigie is the French Assistant in the Lyonsgate Toddler programme, and previously worked at Lyonsgate before starting her family. Mme. Craigie has two children that attend Lyonsgate as Montessori students. Originally from Ottawa, Mme. Craigie studied early childhood education at Algonquin College.
Excited to come back to work after taking five years off to be with her children, Mme. Craigie loves to be outside in nature, and to both read and write.

Casa North Montessori Guide:

Ms Andrea Doherty

Ms Doherty is the Casa North Montessori Guide at Lyonsgate. She began her teaching career in the traditional school system but says, "I was very organically drawn to Montessori. After being suggested as a great fit for a Montessori position by a colleague, I was completely hooked! I have been blessed to see firsthand the confident, inquisitive, focused child that Montessori encourages. I believe it is the most authentic, genuine, wholesome form of education, and a wonderful gift to offer your child!"
Ms Doherty graduated from Brock University with an Honours Bachelor of Humanities for Drama in Education in 2011, and a Bachelor of Education in 2012. After years of experience working in an accredited Montessori school, Ms Doherty received her formal Montessori training, graduating from the AMI Teacher Training Program (Primary) in 2015. Her Montessori roles have led her to Toronto, to New York, and to Ireland. After years living abroad with her partner, Warren, and their puppy, Ziggy, Ms Doherty is grateful to be planting roots here in Hamilton with Lyonsgate Montessori. On a personal level, you can always find Andrea curled up with a great novel, baking anything & everything that pops up on Pinterest, or hiking the Hamilton trails with her family.

Casa South Montessori Guide:

Ms Nisrin Jasdanwala

Ms Jasdanwala is the Casa South Montessori Guide at Lyonsgate. She was born and brought up in Bombay (Mumbai), India, moved to Canada in the late 1990s, and has native fluency in English, Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarati.
Ms Jasdanwala's dream was to teach Casa children since she was 20 years old. That came to be in Toronto in 2002, when she received her Montessori AMI Diploma from the Foundation of Montessori Education. Her education qualifications also consist of a Masters Degree in Sociology from Bombay University, a Bachelor of Education from Charles Sturt University, and Certificates in Speech and Drama from Trinity College of London. Ms Jasdanwala has taught for 8 years in three countries: Canada, United States, and India. She also holds diplomas in Travel and Tourism and in Beauty and Hairdressing, and extends her knowledge to friends and family when they require it.
Ms Jasdanwala loves to indulge in adventurous sports, play board games, loves to travel the world, watch Broadway plays, and direct plays for children at the school. She also likes to read, enjoys Indian and Western music, loves to see Bollywood and Hollywood movies, and plays the Djembe.
Ms Jasdanwala is passionate about guiding your children’s academic, social, cognitive, and emotional development to enhance each child’s will and personality.

Support Staff:

To meet the requirements of the heightened health and safety requirements for this school year we have hired two new support staff:

Ms Ashley Lalonde

Ms Lalonde will be filling the new position of Float Staff that is required for the 2020.2021 school year to allow for the cohort scheduling, so all of the Casa and Toddler children will get to know Ms Lalonde. Born in Germany, Ms Lalonde moved to Canada when her father was posted to Pembroke, Ontario. She enjoys travelling and had the opportunity to visit her birth town in Germany in 2007.
Ms Lalonde has always had a passion for working with children. Before transitioning to Lyonsgate, Ms Lalonde held a position at a Montessori school in Paris, Ontario. Ms Lalonde will be completing her AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) 0-3 (Infant and Toddler) training, and looks forward to establishing relationships with the Lyonsgate children and families alike.

Ms Mandy La Rose

Ms La Rose is the on-call supply staff for the 2020.2021 school year. With the heightened health and safety protocols, including strict exclusion criteria, your children will likely be seeing a lot of Ms. La Rose.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Ms. La Rose comes from a large family and is the middle of three sisters. She has two daughters, married her high school sweetheart, and has three "fur babies" — 2 cats (Drake and Milo) and 1 husky (Kira).
Ms La Rose earned her diploma in early childhood education from Mohawk College in 2013, and has been the camp coordinator for summer camps for children ages 4 to 6.
Ms La Rose grew up camping every weekend and all summer, and now enjoys sharing her family traditions with her two girls, and also enjoys drawing.

You can view all of this information, including childhood photos, and the rest of the Lyonsgate staff on your Lyonsgate website at
[There are still a few photos to track down and some biographical info to come].

Classroom Contact Email Addresses

Contact email addresses for your children's classes are:

Toddler: Ms Janelle Duhig at
Casa North: Ms Andrea Doherty at
Casa South: Ms Nisrin Jasdanwala at
Lower Elementary: Michelle Achong
Upper Elementary: Marissa Achong

Required COVID-19 Policies

As you know, reopening schools and child care in the midst of an ongoing pandemic requires significant changes to day-to-day operations, and the provincial government and Hamilton Public Health have both been providing legislation and operational guidance directives to ensure a high degree of risk management and mitigation. Lyonsgate has been developing policy and procedure documents as required by the legislation and directives throughout the summer, as guidance has been released and updated. The legislation and guidance is informed by public health officials at all levels of government and has been responsive to changing conditions and research-based evidence. It has been a bit chaotic as we try to plan while awaiting information we know is yet to come, and there is still some we are expecting (the final Hamilton Public Health requirements for child care/Primary we're distributed last night and our policies have been updated accordingly), but overall, given the situation, we are confident that the time has been taken to develop guidance and directives that will be effective in keeping your children, your families, and our staff safe and healthy.

Please click here to access Lyonsgate's COVID-19 policy documents

[Note: there is a policy document titled "Lyonsgate COVID-19 Policy MinEd Submission" that is a single document containing most of the other individual policies; this is due to different submission requirements].

Mask and PPE Policy

We let you know last week that cloth masks will be required for all students at the Lyonsgate Elementary campus, and masks are strongly recommended for students in the Casa and Toddler classes, unless under the age of two. There are more details in the "Lyonsgate COVID-19 Mask and PPE Policy and Procedure" document found at the link above.

Staggered Starts

You have likely heard that Hamilton's two publicly funded school boards will be using a staggered start model for the first two weeks of school. At Lyonsgate, we have always used staggered starts in the Primary programs to make the transition to school easier for young children, and this year will be no different.

  • All returning Casa students and all Toddler students (unless by request) will start school on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
  • All students moving up from Toddler to Casa will have their first day of school on Thursday, Sept. 10.
  • All new Casa students will begin school on Monday, Sept. 14.

Look for specific start dates for Casa and Toddler students from your children's Montessori guides next week.

At the Elementary campus, because our student population is low relative to a traditional elementary school, and because of the cohorting model, all students will begin school on Tuesday, Sept. 8. You will receive specific drop-off time periods from your child's Elementary Montessori guide next week.

Lyonsgate Calendar

Remember to regularly check your Lyonsgate Calendar under the "Parents" tab at We are updating as new events and information, such as online orientation sessions, are added. You will also be hearing directly from your children's Montessori guides via email; keep an eye on your inbox.
Thank you everyone, we can't wait to begin in-person learning again.

As always, and of great importance as we all move towards a return to school, please continue to follow all public health guidelines for the health and safety of your family, and the wider community, so that we can all participate in a full and safe 2020.2021 school year. Keep to your social circles/bubbles. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Maintain physical distance. Keeping community transmission rates low is essential.

Remote Learning and Other Updates from Lyonsgate

[This is the body of the August 21 “Remote Learning and Other Updates from Lyonsgate” email sent to all Lyonsgate families]

Hello Again Lyonsgate Families,

If you still have not responded to the "Return Intention" survey, please do so as soon as possible. We hope that the information included today helps to inform your difficult decision-making. We know how hard it is. Please see the Hamilton Public Health resources below for more information that may assist in your decision-making.

This week, we have an update to the Elementary mask requirement, Hamilton Public Health resources for you, and the plans for what will likely be unavoidable periods of at-home, remote learning throughout this coming school year, as it presently stands. As you know, there are significantly more stringent "exclusion criteria" this year that will require children to spend more time at home than usual (see "COVID-19 Exclusion Criteria" for details). There is also the possibility of cohort/classroom closures, and of full shutdowns of either individual Lyonsgate campuses or of the entire school and child care system.

None of us want shutdowns of any form to occur, so please continue to follow all public health guidelines for the health and safety of your family, and the wider community, so that we can all participate in a full and safe 2020.2021 school year. Keeping community transmission rates low is essential.

For those of you with children also in the public or Catholic systems, or who have been following the reopening plans for those school systems, you will notice that we are using the same terminology to describe the various aspects: remote learning, synchronous learning, asynchronous learning, hybrid plan, etc. This is for consistency, but please note that Lyonsgate's plans are significantly different from what the public boards are being mandated to provide. We simply do not have the resources to provide what is required of public schools, and Montessori education is significantly different from traditional education, which is why you chose it for your children, so we have to do things differently.

Lyonsgate cannot provide an opt-out, online-only learning option such as what is being offered in the larger public systems. However, we do understand and appreciate that some families may be hesitant to send children to school until a more clear picture develops of the impact the return to school will have on case numbers and the extent of community transmission. If any Lyonsgate families do choose to wait at the beginning of the school year, your children will be welcomed to their cohorts at any time you feel comfortable sending them back to school. We will not institute specific return periods or dates.

However, as of September 1, a new piece of legislation comes into effect that will affect families in the Casa and Toddler programs: you will have until September 14 to accept your existing spot at Lyonsgate. If you choose to accept your spot but wait, fees will still apply but your spot will be reserved for you. If you choose not to accept your spot, after September 14 it can be offered to another family on our wait lists. We will apply this to our Elementary program as well. If you choose to wait, please let us know no later than September 14, but the earlier the better, if you can. Thank you for understanding.

Please also note that remote learning will only be available for illness-related and required absences. Remote learning is not available during scheduled, or additional family, vacations.

The sudden closure and transition to remote learning in March was chaotic and difficult for all of us. However, we learned a lot about providing Montessori education via remote learning, and you learned a lot about guiding your children's learning at home. Many of you also shared many, very valuable responses to our year-end survey about remote learning. Below you will find details about what will happen this year when students are required to be home for more frequent and possibly extended periods of time, and what will happen in cases of cohort or school closures.

We are using the phrase "extended absence" here to mean occasions when children must remain absent for the 14-day period when parents choose to not have a COVID test for children, and for other circumstances that may arise when a student is required to stay home beyond a regular illness and recovery period.

Primary Campus

Your feedback told us that large group gatherings online were not beneficial to Toddler and Casa students, that small group and one-to-one online time was most beneficial, that French needed to be delivered in a bilingual rather than immersive manner when offered online, and that guidance for parents to help children work with hands-on materials was required more than social, performative, or worksheet based activities.

We have changed how we will offer remote learning to Toddler and Casa children to address your needs, as follows:

Toddler Students

Toddlers required to stay home due exclusion or closure will each have a package documenting Montessori Practical Life activities they can perform at home. For extended absence or closure periods, parents will also receive pre-recorded Parent Education videos or written guides covering ways you can bring a Montessori Toddler environment to your home to allow your Montessori Toddler to continue your chosen path of development for them. In cases of closure, these will be supplemented by live Zoom Q&A sessions for parents with your child's Montessori guide and assistants.

Casa Students

Individual Presentation Binders: Your children's Montessori guides will maintain an individual binder for each student that will be continually updated with resources related to the Montessori materials and activities they are presently engaged with. When a student is required to be excluded due to illness or closure, the current material in this binder will be placed into each student's Individual Material Kit (see below).

Individual Material Kits: Lyonsgate staff is developing Montessori-style material kits that will be tailored to each student and that they can use in the case of a cohort closure or extended required absence. These individualized material kits are made up of printed versions of Montessori materials, accompanying instructions for presenting and using each material, and several extensions and DIY ideas for further in-home exploration of Montessori concepts. On occasion, your child will also receive concrete materials to take home (again, with instructions included). The primary purpose of the individual kits is to allow students to have hands-on materials ready, for the Montessori activities they are working with, to take home with them in cases where they must stay home for extended periods of time.

Presentation and Parent-Ed Videos: Lyonsgate staff are preparing short (as Montessori practice requires) pre-recorded videos of presentations of Montessori materials and activities, just like children would receive in class, that also double as educational videos for parents to learn the "how and why" of working with specific Montessori materials with their children at home.These videos will be shared in cases of cohort or school closure.

Small Group and Individual Zoom Sessions: Your feedback told us that the most valuable and engaging live video interactions for your children were the small group and individual interactions. In cases of extended absence or cohort closure, this is the model we will adopt to guide both children and parents in continuing the children's Montessori education while at home. To follow best Montessori practice, scheduling and grouping of children for these sessions will be determined at the time based on children's development and the Montessori materials and activities they are currently working with or are ready to move on to. The interactive Zoom meetings will revolve around presentations with the materials accessible via your child's material kit; this gives parents and children the chance to see the actual material in practice for a deeper understanding of its purpose and practice after the Zoom call has ended.

The material kits, pre-recorded presentation videos, and live videos will all address both regular curriculum areas and French language instruction.

Elementary Campus

Your feedback, our experience, and what we learned from your children has taught us that Elementary students also benefit most from small group online gatherings in targeted curriculum areas, one-to-one feedback and guidance, regular scheduling to emulate a school-day-at-home, a simplified digital environment, and access to hands-on materials.

Accordingly, we have changed how we will offer remote learning to Elementary students as follows:

Synchronous Learning (live online inclusion in classroom)

Students taking part in synchronous learning will join their classmates via Zoom to view and participate in key lessons at the same time as their peers that remain in attendance at school. A weekly schedule will be posted for families on a private web page, and will include

  • Key lessons that require viewing of the Montessori materials (math, for example)
  • Specific demonstrations (geography, for example)
  • Essential discussions (language, French, history, biology, etc.)
  • O.W.L. classes as scheduled

Asynchronous Learning (material-based and other work completed at home)

Students will have Montessori-style material kits they can use at home to continue their learning after lesson presentations (math materials such as bead bars, for example). Each Elementary student will also be provided with a binder containing subject area notebooks and a pencil case containing pencils, erasers, ruler, and other basic school supply needs that will stay with them in class for individual use at all times, and which will go home with them each day so that they have it in case they need to stay home (keep it in their backpack so it comes to school with them each day, and avoids possible environmental cross-contamination).

Cohort or Campus Closure

In the event of a single cohort or full Elementary campus closure, both cohorts will move to a 4-day schedule for regular Zoom lessons in all subjects.  Each student will have a morning and afternoon live period each day of the four days.  Printable PDF learning guides will be provided for topics where students and families may need additional resources following a lesson.

If an O.W.L. workshop is scheduled for students in Years 4 - 6, this will be held as an additional Friday session.

The schedule will be as follows:

Mondays and Wednesdays will be dedicated to instruction for Lower Elementary cohort students in small group and individual instruction in regular curriculum areas with their Montessori guide.

Tuesdays and Thursdays will be dedicated to instruction for Lower Elementary cohort students in small group and individual instruction in French.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be dedicated to instruction for Upper Elementary cohort students in small group and individual instruction in regular curriculum areas with their Montessori guide.

Mondays and Thursdays will be dedicated to instruction for Upper Elementary cohort students in small group and individual instruction in French.

Fridays will be non-instructional days for students to practice physical and artistic pursuits, and for teachers to prepare for the following week's online sessions.

Hybrid Plan

Much like the public system, we are also prepared for a situation in which a hybrid circumstance is required by legislation or public health direction. In such a case, we would use the whole Elementary building with the Lower Elementary cohort and the Upper Elementary cohort using the building on alternating days.

The hybrid plan is by no means anyone's preferred scenario and would only be used if circumstances dictated it must be so. (A hybrid plan has not been recommended for or directed to be developed for children of Primary-level age -- Casa and Toddler).

Elementary Mask Requirement Update

For the 2020.2021 school year Lyonsgate will be requiring cloth masks for all Elementary students. As you know, Montessori does not have grades and our cohorts have students who would be in a mix of equivalent grade levels. Also, we want to do what is best for the health and safety of all students, staff, and your families. This will be a compassionate requirement and children will be guided and assisted to wear, handle, and participate in mask use as a learning activity. More details to come.


Next week, we will be finalizing and submitting a variety of required COVID-related policy and procedure documents to both the Ministry of Education and Hamilton Public Health, provided we have received the legislation and related guidance documents telling us what those policies must include (have we mentioned this before?...). Once completed, submitted, and approved we will make those documents accessible to you. As we get closer to September we will also have a comprehensive staffing update for you; we have had some staff move on, new staff hired to take on those roles, have had to move other staff members around to meet new requirements, have had a staff member return from maternity leave, and hired for new roles necessary to meet heightened health and safety requirements. The week before school starts, we will be sending you videos and photos of what the school, and we, will look like. There will be screening stations, altered classroom spaces, new staff members, and staff in PPE. You will also start to hear directly from your children's Montessori guides.

If you still have not responded to the "Return Intention" survey, please do so as soon as possible. We hope that the information included today helps to inform your difficult decision-making. We know how hard it is. Please see the Hamilton Public Health resources below for more information  that may assist in your decision-making.

Public Health Resources

On Wednesday, Hamilton Public Health provided us with this list of resources to share with you regarding COVID-19 and children/youth.

Best Start·       Webinar recordings
Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS)·       How can we talk to kids about COVID-19?

·       COVID youth and substance use critical messages for youth and families

Caring for kids·       COVID-19 and your child
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)·       Protect don't infect video for kids

·       Helping your children and teens during a pandemic

CHU Sainte-Justine·       Infographies à propos de la COVID-19
Government of Canada·       Handwashing video and colouring activities
Healthy Literacy Project·       COVID-19 fact sheets
Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies·       COVID resources
Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child & Youth Mental Health·       COVID-19 resources
Reaching In...Reaching Out·       Parent resources of service providers
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)·       Video for kids about physical distancing

·       CEO and Dr. Cheddar answers COVID-19 questions from kids


Thank you everyone, for your patience, understanding, and considerate actions as we work our way towards what will be a strange, but memorable and productive 2020.2021 school year.

20.21 Cohorts, Schedules, and Return Survey

[This is the body of the August 14 “20.21 Cohorts, Schedules, and Return Survey” email sent to all Lyonsgate families]

Hello Lyonsgate Families,

As promised, we have your children's cohort class lists for you this week, including the daily schedules for each cohort. Next week we will be sharing details of what at-home support will look like this year in cases of extended absences, cohort closures, or full school shutdowns. (Please see the July 31 communication "COVID-19 Exclusion Criteria"  for details on when required absences and potential closures will occur).

Standard Disclaimer At This Point: We have been keeping you up to date on the need for the final pieces of legislation and operational guidance documents. We have been hesitant to communicate details that we cannot guarantee are finalized, but at this point you need to know what the school year will look like in order to make decisions for the health and safety of your children and families. We received the operational guidance document for the Primary campus late yesterday (Aug. 13) afternoon and are presently reviewing it to ensure we are in compliance and meeting or exceeding the most recent health and safety mandates. There is still documentation to come from Hamilton Public Health and potentially new legislation from the Ministry of Education that may change some of what we are communicating to you.

Cohorts, Schedules, and Survey

This week's communication includes a "Return Intention" survey. This survey asks you to please let us know which direction you are leaning at present regarding the return to school in September. The survey has options for "Yes"/"No"/and "Maybe" regarding your present position on the return to school, and there are different survey options depending upon your answer. There is an abundance of media coverage concerning the difficulty of and displeasure with the return to school plans, and we know how difficult it is for everyone on all sides; we are both school operators and parents.

There is also an abundance of often contradictory research reporting, and often cherry-picked research results, regarding children, schools, and COVID-19. We have been keeping track as best we can and are finding confidence in multi-source, evidence-based conclusions that, while schools do of course pose some risk for COVID-19 transmission, as long as infection prevention measures are in place and rates of community transmission are low the risk to children, staff, and families is significantly minimized.

This conclusion was echoed by Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health during an August 13 press conference. It is also a conclusion shared by one of your fellow Lyonsgate Montessori parents.

Sarah Neil-Sztramko is an Assistant Professor of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster University and has been quoted in recent news articles about McMaster's work in reviewing the emerging studies of COVID-19, children, and schools. Sarah has shared with us the most recent findings of their ongoing work and provided this link that leads to the most recent (Aug. 11) version of their work: "Rapid Review: What is the specific role of daycares and schools in COVID-19 transmission?" Sarah has also very graciously offered to be available to discuss the return to school with Lyonsgate families. Please contact if you would like to get in touch with Sarah.

Sarah also provided a tool developed by an economist at Brown University in the U.S. to help parents with their decision-making on sending children back to school, and has echoed the conclusion that, "I think our number one comfort right now is our low rate of community transmission which hopefully we can hold on to for as long as possible."

Things are re-opening, but we are still living in the midst of a global pandemic. As always, we urge and plead with everyone to please continue to follow all public health guidelines for the health and safety of your family, and the wider community, so that we can all participate in a full and safe 2020.2021 school year. Keeping community transmission rates low is essential.

We are confident that we have risk-reduction strategies in place that go above and beyond the presently legislated directives from public health officials at the provincial and municipal levels based on the current rates of community transmission, and we have received positive anecdotal reports from schools that are currently open, and child care centres that operated as emergency centres during the spring lockdown period, that these measures work.

Please make what you feel are the best decisions for the health and safety of your children and family.

We are most definitely not trying to convince you to not return to school, but we also know we must remain completely open and transparent for the health and safety of everyone. We cannot wait to be back in the classrooms with your children.

In these turbulent times there has been some staff turnover, and you will note that we are currently seeking qualified Montessori guides for the Casa South and Toddler classrooms. We are interviewing daily to ensure that the right people are in place for your children. Each cohort will have staff members the children know and are familiar with. We will have a comprehensive staffing update soon.

Please complete and submit the "Return Intention" survey by 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 18. Click here to access the survey.

The survey results may require changes to the cohort class lists. As of Sept. 1, a 14-day period will come into effect wherein families are required to make a decision about accepting an offered spot at a licensed child care (the Lyonsgate Primary campus for Casa and Toddler program children).

Please see the links below for cohort lists and their respective daily schedules. Your child may not be in the same class as last year. At the Elementary level, the classes will operate as two distinct cohorts referred to as the Lower and Upper Elementary cohorts based not by age, but by whether they are using the main floor classroom or the newly renovated upstairs classroom. Please find your child's name and take time to review the daily schedules, which also include information on drop-off and pick-up procedures; reviewing the schedules will also show you how we are going to be keeping the cohorts separated. Adherence to the daily schedules will be critical.

Thank you, and please stay safe; we want more than anything to be safely back in the classroom, guiding and learning along with your children.

Please see your August 14, 2020 email with the subject "20.21 Cohorts, Schedules, and Return Survey" for cohort links and schedules.

2020.2021 Health and Safety Measures

[This is the body of the August 7 “Info Update from Lyonsgate: Health and Safety + Calendar” email sent to all Lyonsgate families]

Hello Lyonsgate Families,

It's been nice to get a break from the heat this week, and some rain. Hope all of your gardens survived and you've been able to safely enjoy some much needed sunshine with your wonderful children. This week, we have information about the health and safety measures that will be in place at both Lyonsgate campuses in September, and the 2020.2021 school year calendar.

Each of these information emails will also be published on and can be accessed via the Home page or in the "Updates & Announcements" section under your "Parents" tab.

Next week, we will have your children's cohorts (which class they will be in) and detailed schedules. Please note: the cohorts have been finalized three times so far this summer, and then the rules changed. It's frustrating for all of you, we know, but it is also understandable in the midst of an evolving global pandemic. We have cohorts ready to go right now but we still have not received the legislation and operational guideline documents from the Ministry of Education and Hamilton Public Health based on last week's school re-opening announcements. Once we receive those we can ensure we are in, or preferably above and beyond, compliance and can finalize the cohorts and scheduling.

The only issue will be if there are significant changes or surprises in those documents, which we are not expecting there to be at this point (this has been made very clear to the Ministry by us and many, many other schools). In July, we were promised we would have the details of the "September Plan" by the first week of August; it is presently 4:30 p.m. on Friday, August 7...

On to this week!

School Calendar

You can view the 2020.2021 school year calendar on the Lyonsgate website at

Right now the calendar includes all of the PD/PA days, statutory holidays, winter and March Break dates, and term start and end dates. There is one significant change this year -- we will be having a two-week March Break (instead of the usual one-week with the preceding Friday and following Monday off). This aligns us with other private schools. A couple of PD days have been removed and the school year extends one week later into June, so the number of school days remains the same. Things like Parent Orientation and Education events will be added as we progress into the school year.

Health and Safety Measures

As you can imagine, there are a significant number of health and safety measures in place for this year. They are presented here to follow the course of what will be a typical day for this atypical school year.

Staggered Starts: Both campuses will have staggered start times for specific sets of students, based on things like indicated drop-off/pick-up preferences, siblings, and reduction of congestion. Also, staggered start times are required to allow for mandated daily screening.

Daily Screening: Every family will have to go through a required screening process every day. Some of you may be familiar with screening procedures from places like doctor's offices, and ours will be very similar. Parents will have to respond to a set of questions each day and the child's temperature taken before they can be permitted to attend school. We will attempt to make this as efficient as possible by using an online form that you can use to answer the screening questions from home each morning before you arrive at school so that we can confirm and log your answers and will simply need to check each child's temperature at entry. Screening staff (Hilary/Ms. Mattar at Primary and Jason at Elementary) are required to wear full PPE during this process, so you might want to prepare your child for this. We are looking to create short videos to share the week before school starts so you and your children can see the process in action and what it (and we) will look like.

Masks: As of last week's announcements, all staff at both campuses are required to wear surgical/procedure masks at all times throughout the school day. Elementary children in year 4 and up are also required to wear masks, but they can be the cloth type. Elementary children in year 3 and below, and Casa and Toddler children, are not required to wear masks but it is recommended if they are able to do so and you wish them to.

Classrooms: Each classroom will become a "cohort." The Ministry, and us, and you, we're sure, recognize that physical distancing will not always be possible in a classroom setting which is why "Screening, Cleaning, and Cohorting" are critical. That said, each classroom is being re-arranged to encourage physical distancing by removing anything that is not essential to Montessori education (for example, small couches for communal reading areas) and by separating and spacing the available work areas so that distancing becomes natural and not enforced. There will be no large group gathering or singing activities. As weather allows we will also keep all windows open in each classroom for fresh air ventilation.

Cohorts: Once in their classroom/cohort, children will not interact with children or staff in the other classrooms/cohorts. Each cohort will have a separate recess. There will be a need for other staff to enter the classrooms at times (to deliver food, to cover breaks, or deliver educational services, for example); these staff members are required to wear full PPE.

Snacks: We will have scheduled group snacks this year with each child served an individual snack (no buffet style). Children are also required to have their own personal, labeled water bottle that they must bring to and from school, pre-filled, each day (water for re-fills will of course be available). [Note on labeling: we always ask, but this year it will be very important to please make sure EVERYTHING is labeled with the child's name].

Lunch: Similar to snack, children will be served individual lunch portions at a scheduled time in their classrooms. Elementary children will continue to bring lunch from home. There will be no Friday Community Lunches at Elementary this year. Public Health has asked us to emphasize that children should be able to be self-sufficient with any food brought from home in terms of packaging and preparation so that it does not need to be handled by staff, as much as possible.

Cleaning and Disinfecting: At the Primary level, where hand and personal hygiene is more of a challenge for children (they will be guided to significantly increase hand washing and shown how to do so properly), materials will be disinfected after each use before being returned to the shelf. Each Primary cohort will have a dedicated staff member to perform this duty. Porous items and other hard to clean materials such as sponges and aprons will be removed, as will higher risk materials such as Montessori Smelling and Tasting Bottles. At the Elementary level, children will be expected and guided to perform proper hand hygiene before and after using any material, and hard to clean or high risk materials will also be removed.

Each classroom and all washrooms at both campuses will be cleaned and disinfected by staff at mid-day when the children are not present in the environment (during individual cohort recess times), and again by staff at the end of each school day. Each evening, both campuses will be cleaned and disinfected by a contracted professional cleaning service that will include disinfectant fogging to reach all areas.

Staggered Dismissal: At the end of each day, each cohort will have a specific dismissal period to avoid congestion and cross-cohort interaction. These dismissal periods tie-in to the staggered arrival times -- ie. if you start earlier in the morning, you will be ending earlier in the afternoon. Unfortunately, to preserve the integrity of the cohorts there cannot be separate After or Extended Care at the Primary campus this year.

We know these weekly updates contain a lot of information, which is one of the reasons we are breaking them up; the other reason is that we cannot finalize some things until legislation and operational guidelines are received, as we mentioned at the top. Following the Cohorts and Schedules information next week you can expect information on what at-home support will look like in cases of extended absence or closures, followed by publication of all of the required policy and procedure documents that contain specific operational details, and finally a series of videos and photos to help you and your children prepare for what school will look like when they return, starting on September 8.

Thank you, and as always please continue to follow all public health guidelines for the health and safety of your family, and the wider community, so that we can all participate in a full and safe 2020.2021 school year.

COVID-19 Exclusion Criteria

[This is the body of the July 31 "Information Update from Lyonsgate" email sent to all Lyonsgate families]

Hello Lyonsgate Families,

Well, things continue to evolve. We had a large piece of communication prepared for you for today. It covered some of the elements for the September return to school that we have been able to plan for based on Ministry of Education legislation and Hamilton Public Health directives. It was the first of a number of planned communications to share a large amount of information with you as we approach September.

As we're sure you all know, the Provincial government announced plans for the public school re-opening yesterday afternoon (guiding our Elementary planning), which was followed by a memo from the Ministry of Education yesterday evening announcing coming changes to licensed child care legislation (affecting the Primary campus Casa and Toddler programs). Both of these announcements may significantly change our planning for how the Lyonsgate Primary and Elementary campuses will operate in September.

The brief summation is that all children will still be able to attend school at Lyonsgate full time, five days per week. Allowable class/cohort sizes have been increased. Masks for staff at both locations, and for older Elementary students, are now mandatory. Strict health and safety protocols will remain in place.

Both of these announcements will be accompanied by updated, detailed operational guidance documents from both the Provincial government and Hamilton Public Health "in the coming days," as we have been told. These documents provide the practical details of how the announced measures must be put into place and practice. Once we receive these documents we will be able to adjust the operational plans, policies, and procedures for both Lyonsgate campuses, and let you know what school will look like and how it will function in September.

We know everyone needs answers and information, and we have been working hard throughout July to make plans, adjust infrastructure, and develop and secure the necessary resources based on the legislation and directives available. It seems that some of that will remain the same, but significant portions will also change. We cannot provide details until we know what the new rules are, but we do want to convey some information that is important.

Strict Health and Safety Guidelines

It was noted in both the announcement and the memo that enhanced, strict health and safety guidelines will remain in place. These include things such as daily health screening of children and families, increased environmental cleaning and disinfection, and very strict "exclusion criteria" and procedures.

The exclusion criteria and procedures will have the most significant impact on you. While schools are indeed re-opening, please be prepared to have children at home at a greater frequency and for longer periods than usual throughout the school year. As long as the health and safety guidelines do in fact remain unchanged, here's what we can tell you (this is part of our original, planned communication for you for today):

To address COVID-19, Hamilton Public Health has updated what are called "exclusion criteria." These are the conditions under which children must be excluded from attendance at school, and for how long. As you can imagine, these exclusion criteria have become significantly more strict. As things stand right now, children will not be allowed to attend or remain at school if they exhibit or develop even the most common of symptoms. The list of exclusionary symptoms, which also make up part of the daily screening process, are:

Fever (37.8C or higher), new/worsening cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, new olfactory (loss of smell) or taste disorders, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, runny nose/nasal congestion (except seasonal allergies, nasal drip, etc.), unexplained fatigue/malaise/myalgia, chills, headache, conjunctivitis, lethargy/difficulty feeding in infants. [Note: these same exclusionary symptoms also apply to Lyonsgate staff.]

Children exhibiting any of these symptoms, or developing any of these symptoms while at school, must be "excluded." As parents of young children, you know that this list will affect everyone at some point during the school year. If a child is excluded for any of these symptoms there are specific protocols we must all follow:

1. The school must report the case to Hamilton Public Health and the family must also contact Hamilton Public Health for testing referral.
2. Depending on whether or not testing is completed, and the results of the test, different scenarios come into play. From Hamilton Public Health:

Individuals who are tested:

• Children/staff who test negative for COVID-19 must be excluded until 24 hours after symptom resolution. [Note: this exclusionary period would include the time involved in being tested, receiving the results, and ensuring the child is 100% symptom free for at least 24 hours without the aid of symptom relief medication].

 • Children/staff who test positive for COVID-19 must be excluded from child care centre for 14 days after the onset of symptoms and clearance has been received from the local public health unit. [Note: in this case the entire cohort/class is also required to be excluded: "A single positive case in a child/staff results in an outbreak being declared at the child care centre. All members of the cohort are to be excluded from the child care centre for 14 days. In consultation with Public Health, cohort members may be referred for testing" -- Hamilton Public Health.]

Individuals who are not tested:

• Ill children/staff, if not tested, must be excluded for 14 days from onset of their symptoms.

The likelihood of longer and more frequent than usual absences from school is high for all of us under these conditions.

Once we receive the new operational guidelines, we will be moving quickly to adjust the planning we have completed so far. While there is much momentum at the political level to open up schools and child care to full capacity operations, Lyonsgate will continue to develop operational plans with the health and safety of the children, your families, and our staff and their families as the top priority.

Thank you, and please continue to follow all public health guidelines for the health and safety of your family, and the wider community, so that we can all participate in a full and safe 2020.2021 school year.

UPDATE: LYONSGATE TO REMAIN CLOSED UNTIL APRIL 6. A Message from Lyonsgate About Health in Our Community

UPDATE: The Ontario Ministry of Education "has issued a Ministerial Order to close all publicly funded schools in Ontario for two weeks following March break, in response to the emergence in Ontario of COVID-19. ...Ontario schools have been ordered to remain closed from March 14 through to April 5, 2020." (See full statement here).

Lyonsgate Montessori School will be following this directive and both Lyonsgate campuses will remain closed until Monday, April 6.

As we embark upon our March Break tomorrow, in this time of global COVID-19 pandemic, we'd like to share a message with our community. First of all, please know that Lyonsgate is following all recommendations from Hamilton Public Health Services, which includes vigilance on handwashing and regular disinfection. Most of these practices are within the scope of our everyday Sanitary Practices Policy that is mandated by both the provincial and municipal governments. We are also, obviously, maintaining an extra degree of awareness.

This past week, we have had both students and staff absent with cold-like illness, which in a school setting is not in any way unusual. There are children and/or staff members absent with illness every day, whether we are in the midst of a global pandemic or not. It is more unusual to not have a bit of a sore throat and a runny nose, or a nagging cough, when you are in a school setting every day, especially at this time of year. If we all missed work or school every time we had a sniffle our small school community would almost grind to a halt. That said, the current climate is making us all more aware and cautious.

Staff members who would normally come to work because they are feeling a bit under the weather, but who don't feel so sick that they need to spend the day at home in bed, and families of students who may not be feeling great but who are "well enough to go to school" are both taking time to reconsider and stay home when normally they would not, and we thank you all for taking an informed, cautious approach.

At this time there are no concerns that anyone at Lyonsgate -- staff, students, or extended families -- has reason to believe they have been exposed to COVID-19.

Getting sick is annoying and frustrating, mostly for the sick person, but also for others we might infect, for parents who have to miss work to care for sick children, for teachers who have to delay or forego planned lessons and activities, for administrators who have to find coverage. Getting sick can cost us time and money, and can alter best laid plans. It's always a balancing act, but, whether global pandemic or not, we always ask that all members of the Lyonsgate community keep the whole community in mind when deciding whether or not to come to work or to send children to school when feeling sick. The heightened awareness we are feeling and caution we are practicing today serves as a reminder to both look after ourselves and to take care of each other. It takes all of us to commit to keeping our community as healthy as possible, at all times.

Our more-than-sincerest hope is that everyone avoids infection until the pandemic crisis has passed. For those travelling over the March Break, please find and heed the advice of public health units and issued travel warnings both at home and at your travel destinations. Please let us know if you have any concerns about yours and your children's health upon return, and please know that we want you to make the most cautious choices when deciding whether or not to send children to school.

Access the Hamilton Public Health Service's COVID-19 web portal here.

Access the Government of Canada's COVID-19 Travel Advice web page here.

Access the Ontario Ministry of Health's COVID-19 web portal here.

During the break both Lyonsgate campuses will be undergoing a deep clean. We will also be keeping track of public health communications and will let you all know of any new information or directives that may affect the return to school.

Upon return from March Break we will not hesitate to contact parents whose children exhibit any symptoms of illness at school and we ask for your cooperation and understanding if you receive such a call.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and we hope to see you all back at school, healthy and well, on Tuesday, March 24 Monday, April 6.